For many facilitators, the ideal participant is someone who is interested in the topic, willing to share information and comments, completes individual and group exercises promptly, and joins group activities voluntarily. However, participants are often required to attend mandatory trainings, do not feel comfortable discussing personal or work-related issues with others, do not see the value of individual or group exercises, and are unwilling to “play” training games.
Likely, your participants’ level of involvement will fall somewhere between these two extremes. At best, you already know your audience because you have worked with them before. At worst, you will discover where they are in the continuum when you encounter them for the first time.
Let’s meet Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick.
When attending training, Ian is only interested in getting information that he cannot find by doing his own research. For him, facilitators’ insights based on experience are valuable. He usually sits passively at the back of the room, hoping not to be called on for anything. He rarely speaks up or asks a question. He just wants to get back to work as soon as possible.
Jessie brings her tablet to every training to take notes or pictures of PowerPoint slides that contain data and graphics. She is interested in receiving the latest information available to help her perform her job better. She completely dislikes icebreakers, and freezes whenever a facilitator says something like “turn to the person on your right and talk,” whether this happens at a conference or in-house training. She thinks those exercises are a waste of time.
Rakesha is only comfortable sitting in an audience. She refuses to engage in role-play exercises, especially when the entire group is watching, or to practice presentations to get feedback from her peers. She often tells facilitators about her preferences when she arrives so that they do not call on her or put her in an uncomfortable situation. Even though she refuses to speak in public, she has earned a reputation of being effective with individual coaching and on-the-job training.
Nick sits as far away from the facilitator as possible. He barely acknowledges the presence of others or the facilitator. He focuses his attention on his mobile device or his tablet throughout training unless something grabs his interest momentarily when he looks at the screen or makes eye contact with the facilitator. He always finds a way to avoid answering questions or participating in activities. Nick’s priority is fulfilling his training requirements, and he really wishes he could do so online and at his convenience.
What do Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick have in common? What affect can their actions have on your training? What would you do so that all of these participants have valuable learning experiences in your training sessions?
Where to start
The training landscape has changed. We have found that time allotted to trainings is shorter. For example, clients who used to request six or seven hours of training in one day now ask us to deliver content in four or fewer hours. In other words, we are doing training in chunks. Other clients ask us to go straight to the point without any activities and to prepare for groups of 30 participants, even if we emphasize the benefits of smaller groups.
These requests are the result of multiple factors, such as limited budgets for training, issues with time, and changes in business needs. Today’s participants have shorter attention spans and access to all kinds of information at their fingertips. They are often expected to achieve more with less, and any time spent on what they perceive as useless activities takes them away from important work or life activities. Training is perceived as something they must do when things are wrong instead of a learning experience that can benefit them now.
Today’s facilitators still must address different learning styles and use proven learning principles when designing and delivering content; however, we need to evaluate our model against the new reality of the workplace where participants, such as the ones described above, have different needs and perceptions of training.
In the past, Ian, Jessie, Rakesha, and Nick may have been identified as “difficult” participants who needed to be managed. But it’s our job to create an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of their willingness to participate in more traditional ways, obtains value from what we offer.
We offer the following recommendations.
What do you think? How do you help learners participate, even when they don’t want to? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.
Published Tuesday, January 21st 2020 ATD LINKS
Learning and development departments are commonly perceived in companies as separate entities in charge of delivering training instead of a critical part of the business. Employees often dread reminders that they have to fulfill training requirements to remain in compliance. They have a lot of work to do, it can wait until tomorrow, or this report cannot wait are some excuses to postpone training until the last possible minute.
In many companies, L&D is really a group that only delivers compliance-related training and rarely breaks away from that role to offer opportunities for employees to gain or strengthen skills or even to reskill. As learning and development professionals, we therefore shouldn’t be surprised if employees dread the thought of spending an entire morning, afternoon, or day in a classroom or online hearing information “because they have to.”
Let’s meet Matilda.
Matilda is the training coordinator for a hospital. She’s friendly and outgoing and knows everyone by name. She is an expert in using the hospital’s learning management system to track compliance with training requirements, continued education hours, and license renewals. She creates and distributes the monthly training schedule and reminds employees and their supervisors of when they must take something. Constantly.
As the end of the year approaches, Matilda has noticed that employees seem to disappear whenever she enters an office or even the break room. It’s as if they expect her to remind them again about something they have to do. She is beginning to feel alienated.
Have you been in Matilda’s situation? What have you done? What can she do?
Employees associate Matilda with compliance-based training. They clearly do not see the value that learning and development adds to their capacity to do their work or to the business. For them, training is an obligation instead of something to look forward to because it is an opportunity to interact with others or gain insights on a topic of interest.
Instead of complaining, Matilda asked a few trusted colleagues to give her input about what was going on. Here are some of the comments she received.
“You are always sending reminders of what we need to do without giving a thought to our workload.”
“Everything is always scheduled for the worst times in our business cycle.”
“We often feel like school children in those training sessions.”
“We see the same people doing the same thing all the time. Can you get new people?”
“I don’t like spending a whole day on something just because we have to check a box.”
“For a change, we would like to choose what we want to learn about, or at least, when we want to do it.”
Clearly, learning and development had a negative reputation among employees. Matilda decided to examine further the current state of the hospital’s learning and development department. She confirmed that the same facilitators always delivered same topics. She also scheduled trainings based on the availability of the facilitators instead of participants’ preferences. Her department did not have a budget for non-compliance-related training, so no skills-related or developmental training had been offered for a long time. Requests for external learning events or coaching were only approved for middle management levels and above. Further, learning and development’s section in the hospital’s intranet only had information about upcoming mandatory training, and very few employees spent time there.
Equipped with the feedback and results of her analysis, Matilda made a business case for her manager to revamp how learning and development supported the hospital. She made the following suggestions.
Whether your company already has a learning and development department or is in the process of forming one, here are some recommendations for establishing (or re-establishing) department personnel as experts who contribute to the business.
Published in ATD LINKS, November 19th 2019
You probably have heard reskilling and upskilling used interchangeably. You may even think that they are synonyms. The difference between them is that, in reskilling, an employee acquires a new set of skills while, in upskilling, an employee enhances her abilities within the same job profile. Reskilling and upskilling allow employees to remain productive members of the workforce. By investing in such initiatives companies
Let’s meet Linda.
Linda was a very experienced licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a major metropolitan teaching hospital. She handled all kinds of medical situations at a moment’s notice, provided emotional support to patients and their families, responded to instructions from the medical staff, and understood the intricacies of working with medical professionals without undermining their authority. Linda found her work at the hospital’s emergency room rewarding personally and professionally. She planned to work there until she decided to retire.
Over time, the hospital accelerated the pace of incorporating the latest technological advances into its departments. Digital medical records, robotic surgery, real-time ultrasound guidance for interventions, and telemedicine became commonplace. Gradually, the hospital’s nursing staff became more specialized.
One day, all LPNs were required to become registered nurses (RNs) in order to remain employed. Linda was not ready for retirement and wanted to stay at this hospital.
Linda’s only choice to keep her job was to obtain her RN credential. Her self-confidence dropped and her self-doubts increased because she had been away from traditional academic institutions for a long time. She could not even remember when was the last time that she had to write a paper for a class.
Linda was upskilling, because she was preparing for a more complex role within the nursing field. Both approaches allow employees to remain actively involved in the workforce; however, reskilling has been often associated with unskilled workers who otherwise would be forced to leave the workforce.
Much of the discussion about reskilling and upskilling has been centered on providing technological skills, data analysis processes, and domain knowledge, often overlooking those misnamed soft skills, such as communication, influence, and teamwork. Even though how these are applied in the workplace will undoubtedly change, their core characteristics remain the same.
L&D professionals are uniquely positioned to contribute to the success of reskilling and upskilling initiatives. Here are some specific suggestions for what you can do.
Illanes, P., Lund, S., Mourshed, M., Rutherford, S., Tyreman, M. (2018) Retraining and Reskilling Workers in the Age of Automation. McKinsey & Company.
PwC. (January 2018). Your Workforce Needs Reskilling.
King, D.W. (April 8, 2019). Now is the Time to Start Upskilling your Workforce. Human Resource Executive.
ATD and Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Morrison, C. and Lauber, R. (August 7, 2018). Upskilling and Reskilling: Turning Disruption and Change into New Capabilities. ATD Webcast.
Maurer, R. (February 28, 2019). Scaling Up Skills. SHRM.
Probst, L., and Scharff, C. (2019). The Lost Workforce: Upskilling for the Future. World Government Summit 2019 in Partnership with PwC.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links
Training facilitators often take it upon themselves to be lively during their sessions. We want participants to become engaged in the learning process, and we don’t want a reputation for “putting people to sleep.” However, participants may still nod off regardless of our theatrics or stage presence; they may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Deborah is in the middle of sharing an attention-grabbing story that brings to life a critical point of her training. Deborah’s word choice is perfect. Prior to the session, she timed her movements around the room. She practiced her tone of voice and her rhythm so that she did not sound monotonous.
Just when Deborah thinks she has the class’s full attention, everyone hears loud snoring. Deborah is as startled as everyone else and stares at the back of the room. She loses her train of thought.
It’s Callie. She fell asleep. It happens all the time, someone tells Deborah, and Callie’s colleagues are used to it. This is Deborah’s first time with this group, so she decides to pause for a quick break so she can figure out what to do.
Callie is still sleeping. Deborah touches her arm lightly to wake her. Callie apologizes and goes to get some coffee.
Deborah starts chatting with Eric, who reassures her that her delivery is excellent and that the group is pleased with the session so far. He also encourages Deborah not to take Callie’s behavior personally.
Deborah asks someone else about what is going on; no one cannot say much because Callie doesn’t like to talk about it. All they know is that she occasionally complains about not sleeping well and blames it on the neighbor’s dog. When this happens, Callie is sleepy throughout the entire next day. She somehow manages to get through her daily work, because someone always covers for her. Jeffrey adds that he heard that the neighbor’s dog seems to be barking more lately.
Something does not make sense to Deborah. How can everyone take Callie’s snoring so lightly?
The break ends. Callie returns and still seems sleepy.
What would you do?
Having problems falling asleep is not normal; neither is falling asleep frequently during the day. Insufficient or inadequate sleep affects our capacity to think, analyze, and respond. We perceive the world moving in slow motion. Our speech may become garbled, as if we are intoxicated or, worse, having a cardiovascular event such as a stroke. We can become cranky, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or listless. Just like Callie, we begin to find excuses for our sleepiness and avoid interacting with others, because we are ashamed of they may think about us. And we do not do anything about it.
From what Deborah knows so far, Callie could be suffering from an untreated sleep disorder such as the following.
Deborah continues her session after the break. Callie does not seem interested in the group activities. She gets by with the minimum effort, particularly when she notices Deborah observing her.
Deborah catches Callie dozing off a couple of times again before the session ends. Something is definitely not right.
What would you do?
Aside from the awkwardness of someone snoring throughout a session, it’s important to realize that same person may be more prone to sleepiness and even fall asleep during the workday or, worse, have an accident. In Callie’s case, we already know that someone covers for her and that her situation seems to be worsening according to the more frequent reports of the dogs barking.
Sleep disorders have an impact on the work of employees in terms of:
Further, sleep disorders represent an average annual cost of $2,280 per employee for businesses. Thus, business results could be at stake if these disorders are not identified and treated properly. As a business partner, learning and development has a role to play in risk management.
If you have someone in your session who shares with you having a sleep disorder, consider the following.
Huffington, A. (2016). The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time. Harmony Books.
Sleep statistics, American Sleep Association.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links
Jake works for an insurance conglomerate as an internal learning and development consultant who specializes in designing and delivering programs for managers and supervisors to improve their leadership skills. He works on a team consisting of five other internal consultants who have other specialties.
Jake is a charismatic communicator who creates a welcoming environment when training and has a consistent track record of high scores in his session evaluations. He’s recognized as a top performer in his department and also works to develop and nurture relationships across the conglomerate. He has earned the trust of many of the company’s senior leaders.
Now the company is preparing to launch a management trainee program to accelerate the development of recent hires for managerial roles across divisions. Jake was looking forward to this new program and expected to be selected to design and implement it, but he has just learned that the company hired Camille, an external consultant, to design and facilitate the new program.
Why bring in an external consultant?
Companies such as Jake’s have the infrastructure to design and deliver a wide range of learning and development programs, particularly those that are offered regularly. Still, these companies may need to expand their bench strength for specific areas. In contrast, other (often smaller) companies lack the resources to satisfy the development needs of their employees and thus rely on external consultants to provide those services on a recurring basis.
Consider the following 12 criteria when deciding if an external consultant is your best option.
Jake is a high performer in his department. However, the new management trainee program calls for different skills. Unknown to Jake, the company required a quick turnaround for the program’s implementation to strengthen its talent pipeline for business continuity. The company needed someone with a track record of designing and implementing these programs, preferably with measurable impact on the business’s bottom line.
Camille had the profile that Jake’s company needed. She is accustomed to working with executives and senior leaders and speaks the language of business. She has a reputation for prompting others to think differently by asking the right questions. Further, Camille just finished deploying a similar program in an international financial services corporation, which was beginning to see the return on investment of her fees.
What would you do?
As Jake’s manager, you have the responsibility to position your decision to bring Camille on board in such a way that Jake and the other internal consultants see her as an asset instead of as a threat. You need to answer their questions and pave the way for an effective partnership between your team and Camille. Any unanswered questions about her role could easily become obstacles for the success of your new program.
We recommend the following steps to make the relationship with an external consultant work right from the start.
Have you hired external consultants? What were your deciding factors? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links
Whether you are revising your company’s current onboarding program or starting a new one, you need to communicate what you intend to do to get approval to move forward. The business case will be your written proposition; it should provide information to decision makers that will influence them to take action, demonstrating how the onboarding program is a business priority.
Case in Point
Let’s meet Teddy, the training manager at Bubbles. He has just returned from his first regional professional conference and is convinced that an onboarding program is the solution to retaining employees beyond their first year and creating a more stable workforce.
He believes it is the perfect time to suggest an onboarding program because the founding members of the family-owned company are passing the torch to the next generation. But before he can proceed, Teddy must develop a business case to convince the owners that the company needs an onboarding program.
The business case should emphasize how program benefits outweigh any short- or long-term investments of time and resources, and should position the program as an opportunity for management to build a solid foundation for business growth. At the same time, Teddy needs to acknowledge what the company has done well in the past to develop its workforce capacity and build on those successes, regardless of any current retention issues. The importance of company politics cannot be underestimated, and he should avoid presenting a list of problems without potential solutions.
How to Develop the Business Case
First, Teddy should secure the support of his manager. Preparing for this meeting will force Teddy to conduct preliminary research on the benefits, risks, and costs of the proposed onboarding program, as well articulate his general thinking.
After obtaining approval, Teddy will need to take a deeper look at how new employees become immersed in the company’s culture and prepare to perform their roles. To do this, he will need to collect information from the human resources function and meet with frontline managers who can share how they introduce their employees to the company and specific job requirements.
Talking with some employees who have stayed with the company beyond that critical first year about their experiences also will be useful. In addition, Teddy could reach out to similar businesses or to a specialized consulting firm to access benchmark data that offers insights about pitfalls to avoid.
Based on this research as well as data about employee retention, Teddy will be able to determine the current state of the company’s onboarding practices. With this information and his own understanding of the business, he will be able to portray the desired onboarding program as well as any measures for success, such as faster time to proficiency, increased retention, improved employee engagement, and reduction in production errors.
What the Business Case Should Include
The business case Teddy presents to leaders needs to include a general overview of where the company is and where it should be regarding onboarding. A description of what the company needs to do to reach the desired state is critical to the program’s approval. This description stems from measurable goals and objectives the program aims to achieve. It should sketch the program’s scope and design, starting with the audience (for instance, business areas; new and new-to-role employees; hourly or exempt employees; managers and executives).
Once the description is prepared, Teddy will introduce whether or not the program will cover all three phases of onboarding—pre-onboarding, general onboarding, and role-specific onboarding. Based on the program’s scope, he will introduce general content the program will include, who will deliver it, and how and where it will be delivered. This information, in turn, will affect the program’s duration and expected investment.
Ultimately, the typical business case presents:
The ROI of onboarding programs has been documented extensively. Make sure that your prework for the business case is based on the unique needs of your business—and on what is expected from its employees. In the end, it’s all about the business.
**originally published in www.td.org/insights
Every day, it seems, we read reports of workplace sexual harassment. Many of these news or social media pieces attribute the events to lack of knowledge about what’s right or wrong, macho entitlement, or, worse, the stigma of women as inferior beings who are supposed to accept what is happening.
As learning and development professionals, it’s time to reflect on our role in business initiatives beyond delivering training and supporting organizational communications. It’s time for us to see ourselves as owners, advocates, and sponsors of company initiatives to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace because we are the experts on how people learn and communicate. It’s up to us to design and implement solutions that have the desired impact on employee behavior.
Based on the recent statistics and reports that are being published, what we have done so far is not having the intended effect. Why? Most training initiatives are focused on the basics and not on prevention, and many times they’re not taken seriously. They become one more thing we “have to do.”
Now is the time to change this and create training that works. Before planning future initiatives, though, review what you have as a starting point:
In our practice, we have found many examples of companies that opt for off-the-shelf courses on sexual harassment, whether online or face-to-face. These courses tend to offer general information, are not based on the company’s policy, and are not targeted to address the particular needs of the business and its industry. Therefore, we urge you to review them carefully to ensure that they meet your company’s needs and are appropriate for the level of risk your company faces.
Sometimes sexual harassment training is not mandatory across all levels of the organization. We often find shorter versions of the training available for certain groups, such as senior management, under the guise that they are busy or do not have time to attend regular sessions. All employees, regardless of role or tenure need to be aware of this issue and its consequences, however. Further, when supervisors and managers attend trainings with their teams, regardless of having to take a different version also, they become role models and, implicitly, communicate and reinforce the importance of this issue for them, their teams, and the business.
Courses are often designed and delivered under the assumption that all participants will learn and retain information in the same way. Often seen as an issue of compliance unless an incident forces the organization to take remedial action, these trainings do not receive the attention they deserve when it comes to targeting different learning styles and using delivery methods that engage learners in meaningful ways, even if the content is rather similar every year. Many times, these courses become presentations rather than learning experiences or, if they are delivered online, “click and check the box” where participants just go through the motions with little or no personal investment in retaining the information. No wonder such courses have low levels of impact.
All employees need to understand what is sexual harassment, what their options are if they are victims of it, and what the company will do about it. However, supervisors and managers have the additional responsibility of handling complaints and enforcing the company’s policy.
Based on our practice, we recommend including the following in your training design:
*Originally publish on ATD LINKS, March 2018
Organizations restructure operations, streamline processes, and reduce workforces every year. Employees get sick or leave. Have you ever had to handle this type of transition for your company?
Let’s meet Anisha.
Anisha is the director of talent development for a regional conglomerate of healthcare providers. One of the locations that delivers specialized care is not meeting revenue goals, so corporate decided to reorganize that location and reduce headcount by nine employees during the next three months. Anisha knows who they are; she is working closely with the finance and legal divisions to prepare the employees’ exit packages under strict confidentiality.
These nine employees are the keepers of critical knowledge for the location. The business needs their knowledge, yet it does not have a formal knowledge transfer process.
Anisha has three options:
Which option would you choose?
Businesses need to have formal knowledge transfer and cross-training programs in place before transitions arise. These programs must consider situations such as the following:
Jake, an hourly employee who is the only one who knows the password to release federal funds that support several child care centers. He receives phone calls to access the system and enter the password when he is on leave. If he does not answer, the funds are not released.
Millicent, an hourly employee who knows how to prepare the three most critical financial reports for the end-of-year closing. She is getting tired of not being able to visit her family during the holidays, and she is considering leaving the workforce.
Andrew, a car dealership employee who is the only one who knows the combination that opens the key vault. Without him, the dealership cannot open for business.
Naomi who handles accounts receivable and Herbert who handles accounts payable. They have accounting backgrounds but cannot perform each other’s roles because of the specialized nature of these functions and the intricacies of the company’s operations.
Regina, the only project manager for the most important project of the company. Regina is not happy with the long hours and pressure. Her salary and benefits are good; nevertheless, she has been commenting about having personal issues at home.
Are you ready to let these employees go? Are you ready for their transition out of your company?
Cross-training and knowledge transfer efforts to prepare backups for employees like Jake, Millicent, Andrew, Naomi, Herbert, and Regina have to be fully documented and available for deployment on a short notice to meet business needs.
Learning and development has to be proactive and work in partnership with other departments so the company is ready for employee transitions.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to start taking the right steps to prepare for the unexpected.
These questions will help get you started.
Step 1: Get a snapshot of your company’s current state.
Step 2: Benchmark your current practices against those of other similar companies.
Step 3: Define what knowledge and skills your company will need in the future.
Step 4: Examine the difference between your company’s current and future states.
Step 5: Design your knowledge transfer and cross-training efforts.
Based on the answers to all of the above questions, you will be ready to establish priorities and design a knowledge transfer and cross-training approach to meet your company’s needs. We recommend that your company:
*originally publish on ATD LINKS, January 2018
The recent impact of storms such as Harvey, Irma, and María prompted us to take another look at how we do our work as learning and development professionals. Consider the following situation.
Lena is the talent and development leader for the implementation of a new customer service application at a bank. The training component of the plan involves four weeks of intensive classroom-based training for the system’s different modules to be delivered by Subject Matter Experts who became learning and development facilitators after undergoing an intensive train-the-trainers session. All sessions have been scheduled weeks in advance to minimize business interruptions. Supporting materials have been printed. A mirror image of the system was recreated so that participants can practice without fear of deleting anything. All eyes are on Lena and her team.
Lena is leading the last meeting before the training’s launch in two days to review logistics and any other issues that need to be addressed. Her assistant asks her to step out for a moment for an announcement: a hurricane warning has been issued. Hurricane and tropical storm force winds will strike the area within 36 hours. At least twelve inches of rain are expected and even more in some areas. Management decided that All employees must prepare their offices and then leave the premises for final preparations at home.
Lena remains calm and thinks about what to do when she returns to her meeting.
What would you do if you receive such a warning? Does your company or emergency team have plans for this type of situation? Are you prepared? Perhaps you were in Lena’s situation when warnings for Harvey, Irma, or María were issued for your area.
Do you ignore the warning? Do you pretend that nothing is happening and send everyone to their teams for instructions? Do you panic and tell everyone to go home and take cover?
As Talent Development leader, you have a responsibility to the business, and, at this time, most importantly, to your colleagues.
It’s time to stop and think. Priorities are different and your plans will have to change.
Before you make any decisions about the training, consider the following:
Here are some suggestions for you to handle the situation after the emergency.
We invite you to consider the issues that we presented here when you design your own contingency plans for your next project. All eyes will be on you.
Today it is a storm. Tomorrow could be something else. Prepare for the unexpected.